IBM and Microsoft inch towards common ground on databases

IBM and Microsoft announced important database developments this week that saw the industry giants edge towards each other's...

IBM and Microsoft announced important database developments this week that saw the industry giants edge towards each other's markets.

IBM made its DB2 8.1 generally available, while Microsoft highlighted forthcoming versions of its SQL Server database.

With the latest version of DB2, IBM has tried to make the database easier to use, deploy, and administer so it can better compete with Oracle and Microsoft in the non-mainframe sector of the market.

IBM is the dominant database vendor on mainframe systems, but Oracle leads in the Unix space, said Mike Schiff, vice president of e-business at Current Analysis.

"Classically, IBM has the reputation of requiring a high priesthood to keep DB2 running, while Microsoft is much easier and Oracle skills are in high demand," Schiff added. "IBM is taking on Oracle. They are putting in features to make it easier to use."

Paul Rivot, director of database servers at IBM, said ease of use was one of IBM's primary concerns. "Part of what we are trying to do is change that view [of DB2 being harder to use], both with Oracle and Microsoft."

Rivot pointed to new features in DB2 8.1 that increase ease of use, including enhanced query performance, multidimensional clustering, and autonomic capabilities.

Microsoft, meanwhile, previewed a forthcoming 64-bit edition of SQL Server this week that it hopes will help it convince users of the database's viability on the high end. Microsoft's goal is to make Windows the dominant platform for databases, company officials said on Wednesday at a user group meeting in Seattle.

Microsoft released a beta of the future version of its 64-bit database, codenamed Liberty, and planned for release in April 2003. It also provided further details for its next-generation database, codenamed Yukon. Yukon, which is due out in the first half of next year, will be available in both 32- and 64-bit versions and will support Web services as well as XML.

Oracle, for its part, used its OracleWorld user conference in San Francisco last month to detail 10i, its next database, which is timetabled to ship sometime in mid-2003.

Although 10i's final name has not been determined, Oracle officials said the database would focus on manageability, increased capacity and spreading its clustering technology to new platforms. It will include grid computing features, and add new support for XML and Web services.

IBM will continue to increase XML and Web services within DB2 as well, Rivot said.

"XML looks like the next big thing in databases, but it will become just another feature in relational databases," Schiff said.

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